Pod people: Sensory deprivation center opens in Carroll Gardens

Pod people: Sensory deprivation center opens in Carroll Gardens
Tanks for the memories: Lift Next Level Floats co-owners Gina Antioco and David Leventhal outside the entrance to one of the facility’s 7-foot tall flotation room.
Photo by Jason Speakman

They’re floating a new therapy, and that therapy is floating.

A pair of Carroll Gardeners have opened what they say is Brooklyn’s only sensory deprivation center, and one of the owners swears that lying in a pitch-black tank of salty water saved her from a lifetime of anxiety and insomnia.

“The first time I floated I remember walking out onto busy city streets and just feeling an overwhelming feeling of calmness,” said Gina Antioco, who launched Lift Next Level Floats on Court Street at Sackett Street with business partner David Leventhal earlier this month. “I remember sleeping well.”

Visitors to the one-stop float shop spend their hour-long therapy session ensconced inside a space-age pod, which immerses the floater in total darkness and silence. Antioco and Leventhal add 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt to the water in each cocoon — that’s the equivalent of 333 boxes of Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt — to keep occupants totally buoyant, and customize the water to the inhabitant’s skin temperature, which they say gives the floater an out-of-body experience. Cut off from all of their senses, patients then lie back and dive into their own psyche.

For those who are squeamish about small spaces — or delving too deeply inside their own mind — the outfit also has two 7-foot tall flotation rooms, which have star-like ceiling lights and play literal chamber music.

Leventhal first tried floating when he was in college in the 1980s, which he said was the golden age of sensory deprivation. The practice is now in the midst of a renaissance, he said, thanks largely to comedian and mixed martial arts announcer Joe Rogan, who has been singing the praises of isolation tanks’ hallucinatory effects for years. Leventhal said 40 people came to the first floatation therapy conference he attended — last time he went, more than 500 people showed up.

Leventhal — a former attorney who traded practicing law for defying the laws of gravity — and Antioco met through mutual floating friends, and both said their partnership seemed like a natural fit. In addition to their shared love of lying motionless in salt water, both are “burners,” or devotees of the annual Burning Man art festival in the Nevada desert. The psychonautic pair decided to go into business just two days after meeting, they said.

The duo may spend a lot of their time adrift, but they say their business is firmly planted on terra firma. Lift Next Level Floats already has a small collection of members signed up for regular float sessions, and Antioco said she thinks the activity will really make a splash in Brooklyn.

“Once you do it I think you’re kind of like, ‘How have I not done this my whole life?,’ ” she said.

This is not the first opportunity Brooklynites have had to float inside sensory deprivation tanks — a German artist installed a pod inside a Sunset Park warehouse in 2010 — but it is the borough’s first dedicated floatation therapy center, the owners claim.

Lift Next Level Floats [320 Court St., second floor, at Sackett Street in Carroll Gardens, (718) 701–0808, www.liftfloats.com].

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz

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